Reps’ committees and politics of composition

JACOB SEGUN OLATUNJI writes on the controversy that trailed the membership of the House of Representatives standing committees, as recently released by the speaker.

ON Thursday, July 26, the Speaker of the House of Representatives Right Honourable Olufemi Gbajabiamila, unveiled the names of chairmen, deputy chairmen and members of 109 standing committees of the House, contrary to expectations of members that the exercise would not be done until September when the House is expected to resume from its recess.

It was noticed that the number of the standing committees was increased from 96 inherited from the Eighth Session under the leadership of Mr Yakubu Dogara to 105 out of which the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) got 80 chairmanship slots and the main opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 20. While the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) had two, Action Alliance (AA) and the Allied Peoples’ Movement (APM) produced one each.

Some stakeholders, in the house, however, are not too happy stakeholders over the sharing of committee positions. But many saw the decision of the speaker to include members of other political parties in the committee chairmanship as a positive development, saying it is a signal that the lower chamber will not take instructions from either the executive or the ruling party’s leadership on running the affairs of the House, as earlier speculated in some quarters, based on the emergence of the leadership of the House.

It will be recalled that the national chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, had at, at a dinner hosted by President Muhammadu Buhari for elected APC lawmakers of both chambers of the National Assembly, declared that members of the opposition would not head special and standing committees of the Ninth National Assembly.

The APC chairman said the House of Representatives had 96 committees and that all re-elected members of his party would chair strategic committees, adding that “even new members will chair committees this time around.”

However, perhaps, being mindful of the attention focused on his office, immediately the House was inaugurated and he emerged speaker, Honourable Gbajabiamila promised to carry opposition lawmakers along in committee membership and leadership, in line with his promise to make the lower chamber of the Ninth Assembly democratic.

Despite the foregoing, however, some members still believe that the allocation of the committee chairmanship and deputy chairmanship was used to settle political scores and as well to compensate certain individuals across the parties for their roles in the race to the speakership of Hon Gbajabiamila.

Before reeling out the names, the speaker had appealed to all those who were unable to get chairmanship or deputy chairmanship positions of the various standing committees to take it in good faith.

Also, contrary to expectations of many lawmakers and political analysts, Honourable Abdulmumin Jibrin, who was the director-general Gbajabiamila and Wase Campaign Organisation which worked for the emergence of the current leadership of the House, was shut out of the list reeled out by the speaker.

While it was speculated that Honourable Jibrin, popularly known as “kingmaker” or “game changer,” declined offers to head a committee, feelers from the office of the speaker revealed that the Kano-born lawmaker was being considered for a political appointment by President Buhari for delivering the leadership of the House to the ruling party. Others also speculated that there was more than meets the eyes on the issue.

However, what is being said about Honourable Jibrin’s case cannot be said of other ranking members whose names are also missing in the list. These include lawmakers like the immediate-past speaker, Honourable Yakubu Dogara; Kingsley Chida, who it was learnt was earlier penciled in as the House’s minority leader; Tajudeen Yusuf (PDP, Kogi), Mark Gbillah (PDP, Benue), Nkem Abonta (PDP, Abia), Ajibola Muraina (PDP, Oyo), Chukwuka Onyema (PDP, Anambra), Yakubu Barde (PDP, Kaduna) and Honourable Olajide Olatubosun (APC, Oyo) who had refused to step down for Gbajabiamila during the race to speakership.

Some of these ranking members, who are currently serving their third or fourth terms, were left out of the committee power sharing, while some first-term PDP members were, surprisingly, made heads of important committees. Examples of such members are Honourable Onofiok Luke, the immediate past speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, who will oversee Committee on Federal Judiciary; and a first-term APC member, Benjamin Kalu (Abia), who takes charge of Media and Public Affairs Committee.

According to the list, Wale Raji (APC, Lagos) was named chairman, House Services; Abdulrazak Namdas, former speakership aspirant, chairman Committee on Army; Aliyu Betara (APC, Borno), who also stepped down from speakership race, was name chairman, House Committee on Appropriations; Abiodun Faleke (APC, Lagos), chairman House Committee on Finance; Yemi Adaramodu (APC, Ekiti), Youths Development; and Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo (APC, Ondo), Niger Delta Development Commission.

Similarly, Wole Oke (PDP, Osun) was named chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, while Abdullahi Bago (APC, Niger), who contested against Mr Gbajabiamila, was named chairman, House Committee on African Integration and Cooperation, one of the newly created committees which many have derisively referred to as “fill-in-the-gap committee.”

Jerry Alagbaso was named chairman, Public Petitions; Nasir Daura as chairman, House Committee on Interior; Pascal Obi as chairman, House Committee on Health Institutions; Akeem Adeyemi as chairman, House Committee on Communications; Jimi Benson as chairman, House Committee on Defence; Aisha Dukku as chairman, House Committee on Electoral Matters; Yusuf Buba, chairman House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Yusuf Kila as chairman, House Committee on Customs; Hadija Bukar Ibrahim as chairman House Committee on North-East Development Commission; Tunji Ojo as chairman, House Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); Tajudeen Abbas as chairman, House Committee on Land Transport; Johnson Ogbuma as chairman, House Committee on Environment; Munir Baba as chairman House Committee on Agricultural Production and Adamu Faggae as chairman, House Committee on Constituency Outreach.

Others are: Nicholas Mutu, chairman, House Committee on Gas; Victor Nwokolo, chairman, House Committee on Banking and Currency; Bello Kumo as chairman, House Committee on Police; Garba Datti as chairman, House Committee on Ports and Harbours; Ibrahim Babagida as chairman, House Committee on Capital Markets; Kabir Idris as chairman, House Committee on Civil Society; Femi Fakeye as chairman, House Committee on Commerce; Ifeanyi Momah as chairman, House Committee on FCT Judiciary; Abubakar Kabir as chairman, House Committee on Works; Nwokocha Darlington as chairman, House Committee on Insurance; Abubakar Ado as chairman, House Committee on Information; Mustapha Dawaki as chairman, House Committee on Housing; Olumide Osoba as chairman, House Committee on Sports; Abdullahi Salami as chairman, House Committee on Poverty Alleviation; Lynda Ikpeazu as chairman, House Committee on Maritime Administration and Education; Mohammed Jega as chairman, House Committee on Internally Displaced Persons; Jonathan Gaza as chairman, House Committee on Legislative Budget and Research and a former speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Femi Bamisile, chairman, House Committee on Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), among others.

Meanwhile, speculations have been rife that despite trying to accommodate all shades of opinion in the sharing of committee powers, some chieftains of the ruling party, the Presidency and some state governors still succeeded in having their ways in securing some of the committees regarded as “juicy committees” for their favourites.

Observers, however, said whatever would be the impact of the composition of the committee chairmen would not be felt now, until the House resumed from its recess and the full list of the members of the various committees are made public.

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